Fear of Census undercount drives coalition’s warning

newsroom@tri-statedefender.com | 12/22/2009, 6 p.m.

NNPA News Service

WASHINGTON – A coalition of America’s foremost African-American organizations is aiming to assure that the 2010 census does not undercount African-American people.

       With African Americans historically undercounted in the Census, leaders of some of the nation’s foremost African American groups are sounding the alarm about the 2010 Census. (Photo courtesy of NNPA)

      The National Urban League, the National Action Network, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the NAACP, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association, all met with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, his senior staff and Census Bureau representatives last week to express the concern.

      National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial suggests that there’s also the possibility of an over-count of the white population, exacerbating the importance of an accurate count in the current economic climate.

      Commerce Secretary Locke said the department valued the ongoing conversation.

      At stake is the allocation of more than $3 trillion in federal funding for local and state agencies and programs over the next decade. The count also determines the number of congressional seats a state has.

      In 2000, the national undercount was 0.1 percent, but the African-American under-count was 2.8 percent, according to statistics cited by Morial. Fewer than 60 percent of African-Americans returned their 2000 Census questionnaire compared to 77.5 percent of Whites, according to the Census Bureau.

      Starting April 1, as many as 145 million households will start receiving questionnaires mailed out by the Census Bureau.

      A primary concern among African American organization leaders is that the Census Bureau is not giving organizations the needed level of support to get the word out about the upcoming count. The Bureau’s paid media advertising budget directs less than $3 million to the nation’s African-American print media outlets.

      Los Angeles Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell, chairman of the National Newspapers Publishers Association, a federation of more than 200 African-American owned newspapers and media partners, said, “We are asking for reciprocity….We are not asking for a handout; nor a bailout. We are asking for an accurate count.”

      There is also a continuing concern about how America’s incarcerated citizens are counted due to the large number of African-Americans in America’s prisons and jails.